Somewhere along the Outer Banks there are last year’s Christmas trees piled along sand dunes. They’re there to keep the erosion at a minimum. You might say they’re also there to inspire Sandy Carr to write a children’s book.
“A friend of mine was over one day and she said, ‘My husband was out picking up Christmas trees.” This was January,” recalls Carr, 58, a retired Elizabeth City-Pasquotank schoolteacher. “She said he was loading them up and putting them at the beach.”
That’s where the idea to write a children’s book explaining how recycling Christmas trees works. A seed for “The Happy Ever After Christmas Tree” was planted.
But that’s only part of the story. The rest of the story starts back in 1985 when Carr’s toes and then her right hand began to go numb.
“That was the first time I started paying attention to it because as a teacher you do a lot of writing,” says Carr of the numbness in her right hand.
She was concerned enough with the problem that she would get it checked out by a physician. He told her he couldn’t find a problem.
“So I tried not to worry about it,” says Carr.
And that’s just what she did until 1994. Carr says the problem didn’t improve so she underwent an MRI.
“They said it was definitely MS (Multiple Sclerosis),” recalls Carr.
She says she knew something wasn’t right but to have someone confirm it, well that was hard.
Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. In severe cases the patient becomes paralyzed and/or blind, while in milder cases there may be numbness in the limbs.
For Carr’s part, walking became difficult. She was teaching at Weeksville Elementary School and getting up to go with the kids to lunch was even a chore. So much so that a fellow teacher would bring her lunch to the classroom and escort her kindergarten students to the lunchroom.
Her last year in the classroom she was finding it increasingly difficult to walk and explained to her students that she would be using a wheelchair. They told her, she recalls, that they knew this would happen and it was OK with them.
Carr smiles at that memory because she loves how accepting young children can be.
Eventually Carr’s MS would see her immobilized, and in bed. Today she is bed-bound, but she’s not without her resources.
On a table, the kind you see in hospital rooms, sits a computer screen. Atop that screen is a small monitor that is in sync with a small dot that sits on the bridge of Carr’s eyeglasses.
That dot is her computer mouse. Carr moves her head and the cursor on the screen responds to her command. Carr will click the icon on the screen and she’s logged onto the Internet. Or she’ll click another icon and she’s opened
a Word document. And that’s where the magic begins for Carr.
With her head Carr moves the cursor across a digital keyboard on her screen. The cursor stops over a letter and the letter appears on the document. She’s typing in a sort of hunt-and-peck fashion, only she so used to it that it’s not a chore, she says.
That she is typing and communicating with the world from her bed is a big deal for Carr because aside from being inspired to write children’s books, Carr has been known as a writer pretty much all of her life.
As a teacher, Carr would write “little books” for the kids in her class. Her fellow teachers would encourage her to get them published.
Carr would also write “touching and humorous” poetry, says friend and book illustrator Kris Johnson.
Johnson is a fellow retired teacher. She and Carr have been friends a long time and after she retired from the classroom, she began to take art lessons at College of the Albemarle. Carr recruited Johnson to do the watercolor illustrations for the book. Together they have collaborated on several books now.
And Johnson knew what she was getting into because she had read so much of what Carr would write for people all of those years.
The book is aimed at young children. Carr says she is only in the early stages of publishing it. She has ordered limited copies and has not yet determined how she will distribute the book. She’s currently looking for an affordable means to publish her books because, as she points out, medical bills seem to take up her surplus cash.
Carr has also penned a second, smaller book that was inspired by a friend’s cat, “Martin, the Cat Who Loves Christmas.”
And she is also working on another book. Together with Johnson and their friend Claudia Thompson, the team’s proofreader, there will be another Christmas themed book, detailing the ABCs.
Carr laughs at the Christmas themes. She says that while she enjoys Christmas, the theme was coincidental to the three books. What is not coincidental, however, is her love of writing, and the spirit that Sandy Carr carries with her.